The UAE progressed to the last 16 in the Asian Games in China with a clinical 3-0 demolition of Uzbekistan yesterday.
They topped group E on a better goal aggregate from Hong Kong, who overcame Bangladesh 4-1, to finish with seven points apiece. The UAE next meet their Gulf neighbours, Kuwait, the group D runner-up behind Qatar, and Hong Kong plays Oman, both on Tuesday.
Ahmed Khalil scored twice after Theyab Awana had put them ahead in the 10th minute, latching on to a corner from his Baniyas teammate Amer Abdulrahman.
Khalil doubled the lead seven minutes later and was on target again 13 minutes from time to complete a resounding win over a side considered before the tournament to be a strong candidate to win the group.
Mahdi Ali, the UAE coach, said the two early goals made the difference. "We had several chances to take the lead much earlier as we were on the attack from the whistle and created several chances," he said.
"And having taken a 2-0 lead, we could have more control on the game. It was another good performance from the players, and I think it was the first game that really shook them up and got their focus back [after] we were held 1-1 by Hong Kong.
"We were under pressure from that game because the next two matches became very critical for our qualification from the group stage.
"It's all praise for the boys to come back so strongly in the next two games and score six goals to none. But it's still not over. We need to continue with this momentum and go all the way to the end."
When: Today - November 27
Where: Guangzhou, China
UAE team: 99 athletes.
UAE sports: Athletics, billiards, bowling, boxing, chess, road cycling, track cycling, equestrian, football, fencing, judo, karate, sailing, shooting, swimming, taekwondom table tennis, wrestling.
More informaiton: www.gz2010.cn/en
Top UAE hopefuls
• Omar Jumaa al Salfa. Athletics, 200m, 4x100m, 4x400m. Al Salfa showed his potential at the 2008 Asian Junior Championships, where he won the 200m. He also reached the quarter-finals of the 200m at the World Championships in Berlin last year. His personal best is 20.72secs.
• Mohammed Abbas Darwish. Athletics, triple jump. Darwish won the triple-jump gold medal at the West Asian Games in September. His mark of 16.80m, set in just two attempts, was a record and sealed his place for the World Championships in South Korea next year.